Serrano Street – Calle Serrano – a shopping boulevard crossing Madrid that features prestigious international brands like Chanel, Prada and national ones like El Corte Ingles, has been making headlines thanks to the #callebitcoin project. The project aims to turn this street into a resource for Bitcoin users, and hopes to then see the experience replicated in other Spanish cities, setting an example across the Spanish speaking world.
The idea for a “Bitcoin Boulevard” is not new, having been tried before in Netherlands and in the United States, but Serrano St. has became the first in Spain and will be the largest Bitcoin Street in Europe.
The drive to turn Calle Serrano into a Bitcoin haven came from the Bitcointalk forums, where a team of volunteers came together with the common goal of bringing Bitcoin to a group of local businesses in close geographical proximity.
The project had two main goals: first to show to merchants how easy it now is to use Bitcoin for everyday payments, and secondly, it hopes to bring together the Spanish Bitcoin community around a place where it can meet, connect and experiment with different ways of using Bitcoin. It provides a platform for further innovation and experimentation in Spain.
Volunteers have been visiting businesses, handing out flyers, and giving Bitcoin education in stores by advising on the tools and possibilities (paper wallets, Blockchain, Coinbase, Bitkassa, BitPay etc.), handing out stickers (like the well-known “Bitcoin Accepted Here”) and promoting the Bitcoin world through activities and workshops.
As of today, more than 20 merchants are accepting bitcoins in this Madrid thouroughfare and it even has a Lamassu ATM located in the ABC Serrano shopping mall (a Robocoin ATM is also on its way), making it easier for local companies to accept Bitcoin. Participating merchants include several bars and restaurants, a hotel, a law firm, an architectural studio, shops, and even a doctor! The full list can be seen at coinmap.org. Many of them are also featured in this trailer:
The project is sponsored by a number of Spanish Bitcoin startups, as well as giants such as Coinbase, Blockchain, and BitPay. Sponsors have provided T-shirts and merchandise, and will also be giving away some bitcoins on launch day!
The nearby presence of 2 international MBA schools (IE and IEB) and a number of embassies (including USA and Italy) means that there is the potential for merchants to have a permanent and growing base of Bitcoin-using clients.
The #callebitcoin team feels that it is very important to bring everyday Bitcoin use to the real, physical world, bringing both visibility and removing the techy stigma that makes many everyday users cautious of installing a Bitcoin wallet.
Participating merchants, like architect Ana Muñoz Gonzalez, find Bitcoin new and fun and were happy to try it out, finding it “very easy and fun to use thanks to the different possibilities for accepting Bitcoin”, “doing away with intermediaries and performing fast transactions is great” . . . “we are keeping the bitcoins and hope in turn to be able to spend them directly in Serrano street.”
Others, like the restaurant “The Geographic Club”, use payment processors, BitPay POS in this case. They did not know much about Bitcoin before being approached by volunteers from #callebitcoin. “Now we find it easy to use; even my (65 year old) father can use the tablet or smartphone to bill clients. It’s easy.” They feel that it is a perfect fit for their international clientele.
Law firm Abanlex specialized in technology law has been accepting Bitcoin for over a year and feels that it was a logical step for them to be pioneers in this area. They have already received a number of Bitcoin payments. They also offer advice on the legal situation of Bitcoin in Spain.
Most participating merchants see accepting Bitcoin as a way to bring in more clients and are happy to experiment with a new way of doing business. It helps them stand apart as more modern and fun.
The official launch of #callebitcoin, which the team behind this project has labelled EL DÍA B (B-DAY), will be on October 3rd (and last into the 4th). There will be games, giveaways, rewards, and a big party to celebrate the largest Bitcoin Street in Europe and bring together all of the Spanish Bitcoin community. All Bitcoiners and newbies are welcome!
You can learn more about #callebitcoin at callebitcoin.es
Special thanks to Félix Moreno for all the information and help to write this article.